POWERS — Powers city politics has resembled a volleyball tournament, with its share of kills and digs.

Now with resident Leo Grandmontagne successfully having recalled Councilors Joseph George and brothers Jack and Mearl McDaniel Jr., each side claims its own version of the truth. 

Despite repeated attempts, Grandmontagne couldn't be reached for comments.

For Grandmontagne, he didn't simply want the three councilors out of office because of their support for the grinder system versus the septic tank effluent pump, or STEP, and what was supposedly less expensive. He made other claims in his official statements filed with the Coos County Clerk's Office. 

Reached by phone, George took issue.

"Leo cares for Leo," George said.

As a result of the recall election, now the council doesn't have enough of a quorum for the moment.

City Recorder Stephanie Patterson sent an email Friday afternoon, explaining that because of this, council meetings have been canceled for October. 

"An official notice regarding the meeting schedule and recent recall election results will be released Monday (Oct. 5), as I am at home with the flu today and unable to make it into the office," Patterson wrote. 

In his official reasons for recalling each councilor filed with the county, Grandmontagne outlined his allegations.

"Joseph George is a strong supporter of the sewage grinders and is very opposed to the STEP program (competition)," Grandmontagne wrote.

Grandmontagne also discussed his rationale for wanting Jack McDaniel out of office. 

"Today Jackie (Jack) R. McDaniel is a strong supporter of the grinder pump system, but when he was collecting signatures to get on the last election, he informed me and others that he was opposed (to) the grinder pump system," he wrote. "He (hoodwinked) the voters who signed his petition. He contributes very little at council meetings."

Jack couldn't be reached for comments.

The recall organizer saved most of his complaints for McDaniel Jr.

"In the last city election in Powers, two candidates ran for mayor on opposing platforms regarding the solution to the DEQ-mandated sewer update," Grandmontagne wrote. "One supported expensive grinder pump technology while the other supported a vastly cheaper alternative septic tank effluent pump (STEP) system and he won the election overwhelmingly. Councilor McDaniel has made it clear at council meetings since this election (November 2014) that he does not support the newly elected mayor, even though he won on popular support."

However, according to figures provided by Civil West Engineering Principal Engineer Bill Boger, the grinder pump system actually is the least expensive of all methods that have been examined. According to documents provided by Boger, who has offices in Coos Bay, the total cost for a grinder system comes to $4,193,860. 

By comparison, the STEP method comes to $4,782,168. The difference is $588,308. 

In an earlier interview, Boger took strong exception to claims made by Grandmontagne and others who said Boger only supports the grinder method. 

The principal engineer said that's false and said that out of all options personnel examined, the grinder was the least expensive. 

Grandmontagne continued trying to make his case to voters. 

"Councilor McDaniel, by forming a majority on the council, quashed the competition, which would have given the citizens a cheaper solution they desire," Grandmontagne added. "Further, no council member or mayor can ask the project engineer or state agency DEQ any questions without going through City Recorder (Stephanie) Patterson, who is Mr. McDaniel's granddaughter. This effectively stymies citizens' attempts to rectify the high cost of the grinder pumps and future hidden costs." 

McDaniel Jr. provided his own thoughts regarding the election and what's next.

"I wasn't surprised," McDaniel Jr. said. "I was just surprised about the number of dumb people in town."

Reached Friday evening, the councilor, who has served intermittently since 1991, said he hasn't seen the election results yet. 

But McDaniel Jr. said "I think those same people who voted for the recall are the same people who've never been to a council meeting."

McDaniel Jr. received a copy of the recall petition and explained that although he nor anyone else should know how someone votes, "75 to 80 percent (of those who signed the petition) had never ever attended a council meeting" and he said "they're going by what (Mayor Bill Holland) and Leo have been telling them."

Like George, Councilor McDaniel Jr. was effusive in his praise of his supporters.

"Thanks," said the veteran city leader. "I've had numerous phone calls." He added that he's had "numerous phone calls on the street and they said 'I don't know how this happened.'"

McDaniel Jr. said he thinks he'll need to turn in everything at about Oct. 14. 

"I have no keys (to City Hall)," he said. "I still have my box at City Hall and there's still stuff in that and I'm not turning that in until the last second."

Councilor McDaniel Jr. also has copies of Civil West Engineering wastewater treatment plant and water master plan documents at home he will turn in. He emphasized that "this stuff will help the new councilors ... if they'll take the time to read it." He added that "they're the Bible that we're going by."

McDaniel Jr. once worked in the woods, cutting timber. Starting in the early 1990s, he served as mayor. He said he will miss his time on the council.

"I've really enjoyed it," he said. However, McDaniel said that because he took days off from work, that cost him about $3,000 per year at $300 per day.

McDaniel Jr. said he made a variety of trips, including seven or eight to Salem, during his entire time on the council from the early 1990s. 

"I never claimed mileage or time or anything," he said. Additionally, to get more research for a new treatment plant he also visited plants in Brownsville and Creswell. "It was just something that needed to be done, so I did it."

George has served three terms. He has repeatedly said he wanted to serve out his term, making sure the new plant came to fruition and that three terms was enough after that. 

Now he may file again. 

George expressed frustration with the turn of events.

"I think we're going to lose that grant because they've recalled us," the councilor said, referring to a United States Department of Agriculture amount of funding that pays for 100 percent. Of that, 75 percent comes from grants and the remainder is through federal loans. Several councilors, including George, said it's rare for a community to get this much federal funding.

Grandmontagne is also friends with Mayor Bill Holland, who has a number of supporters in the community and who won out over the former mayor last November

"I trust him as far as I can spit with a dry mouth," George said of Holland.

George said it's absolutely critical the city must build the plant. The existing facility dates back to 1962. 

"We've been fighting this for 24 years," George said. "Well, we've been out of compliance for almost 24 years."

He expressed his frustration with Grandmontagne and his supporters.

"I've been a gentleman," George said. "They been slinging all this stuff. I guess the people spoke, but I wish they got the right information. That's all I can say, and I hope they have another election 'cause I'll run for that again."

"I don't read Facebook, but I bet I'm all over it," George said, laughing.

George had nothing but praise for those who voted to keep him in office.

"Thank you very much for supporting me," he said. "I appreciate their support for three terms and I wish you all the best."

What also concerns George is that through the recall process, the city ended up spending a "couple grand." Although he didn't know the exact expenditures, he wondered if the city could really afford such a bill. 

On Sept. 30 George turned in all files and paperwork to City Hall. He said he had no keys to the building. 

McDaniel Jr. had these parting words for anyone new to the council.

"Once you make up your mind, stick with it. Don't back down," he said. "There'll be people who will try to intimidate you and I've been tried by experts. Ain't nobody's got a degree in intimidation."

Coquille Valley Courant Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or shelby.case@theworldlink.com.


Umpqua Post Editor